HISTORY AS A BRANCH QF LITERATURE
has vanished; in very deed and truth, like that baseless
fabric of Prosperous air-vision.
A&ording to Carlyle all such things have their
moment, with one eternity of darkness before them and
another that is to come after them; and while they
enjoy their brief existence the axe of fate hangs over
them, waiting to cut them off. " This Book of
Boswell's ", however, this Life of Johnson, comes on the
scene to deliver them from the dark fatality. Such a
b.ook, we are told, is significant because it stands as
" precisely a revocation of the edict of Destiny".
Carlyle expresses something that is universal in human
nature, though he does it in a mood and in a manner
which seem to be born from the Romantic movement.
He sees history as a work of salvage, an attempt to clutch
dead men and things from annihilation. Alternatively
he sees it as simply an answer to our own desire to have
the past living again before our eyes.
It stands to reason that for this kind of historical
purpose the condition that a work should be accurate is
as relevant as it could be for any other kind of historical
purpose. When we meet the kind of history which is
" resurrection ", we legitimately-, ask in the case of a
narrative : " Did this really happen ? " and in the case
of a description: " Was this the genuine state of
things ? " Carlyle once said, *e Let any one bethink him
how impressive the smallest historical/^/ may become
as contrasted with the grandest fictitious event "* When
we are reading about the Protectorate it affects us if we
cannot rely on the portrait of Cromwell that is being
presented to us ; and we know it is not the same thing